The agony of their hunt for daughter Madeleine has ­tormented Kate and Gerry McCann for 13 long years.

And as police appear to be on the brink of finally solving the riddle of her disappearance, people around the world touched by their plight are praying for them.

Madeleine was three when she vanished from her bed in a holiday apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal, on May 3, 2007.

Kate and Gerry, both doctors from Leicestershire, had been enjoying a meal with seven friends at a Tapas restaurant about 200ft away.

The ground-floor flat where Madeleine and her two-year-old twin siblings Sean and Amelie were asleep could just be seen over the top of a colourful bougainvillea bush.

Maddie's parents were enjoying a meal with friends when she went missing

The parents took it in turns to check on the youngsters, every 30 minutes.

At 10pm, Kate discovered Madeleine was missing. A frantic search of the quiet resort
was launched and witnesses told of Kate’s anguished screams and seeing Gerry sobbing on a friend’s shoulder.

Fellow tourists asked in bars and scoured the surrounding roads and scrubland.

One of the McCanns’ friends, Jane Tanner, later told police she saw a man carrying a young girl down the road when she checked on her own children at 9.15pm.

A police sketch based on her account was circulated but it was later claimed the man pictured carrying the girl was an innocent British dad taking his daughter home from the creche. He even agreed to be pictured in the clothes he wore to prove he was the man in the sketch.

A sketch of a man carrying a child later turned out to be a dad with his daughter

Madeleine soon became the most reported missing person case in history and early images beamed around the globe focused on the distinctive mark in the iris of her right eye.

Twelve days after the disappearance, British-Portuguese property consultant Robert Murat became the police’s first “arguido” a person of interest who is treated as more than a witness but is not charged. Innocent Murat, 34, who lived about 150 yards from the apartment, resembled the Ms Tanner’s photofit.

But he ceased to be an arguido and was treated as a witness instead.

The devastated McCanns themselves were the next target of the Portuguese police and were shocked to be named as arguidos. Two days later, they flew back to Britain, saying they had to go home for the sake of their twins.

Lead investigator Gonçalo Amaral was removed from the case in disgrace after criticising British police and the McCanns in an interview about his book, The Truth of the Lie.

He made shocking allegations that Mad­eleine died in the holiday apartment and the McCanns had covered up her death. And he shamelessly plugged his books in shopping centres, signing them like a celebrity.

Maddie became the most reported missing person in the world

Kate said during their libel battles with him: “It was very painful to read and I also felt anxious and fearful because of the damage I felt it was doing here in Portugal.

“We were working so hard, trying to do everything in our power. It was hard enough without all our efforts being crushed in this way. It intensified the pain and fear that there was no point and we might as well give up.”

Two sniffer dogs trained to detect the “scent of death” from corpses and blood made alert signals in the apartment. They were also said to have found a scent in a car Kate and Gerry rented three weeks after Maddie vanished. But samples analysed by the UK’s Forensic Science Service were “inconclusive”.

Kate and Gerry said later they feared Maddie’s kidnapper may strike again and they believed he or she would have been laughing at claims they hid her body.

Madeleine McCann
The Brit would now be 17-years-old

In November 2007, a local pizza shop owner told British media he saw a “vicious-looking” man and woman dragging a little blonde girl towards the marina at 6am. He said Portuguese police ignored his report.

Another Ocean Club worker later claimed to have seen a man lurking under the stairwell outside the McCanns’ apartment.

Then in July 2008, the Portuguese police shelved the probe and released the McCanns as arguidos. But Kate and Gerry refused to give up and set up a fund to raise cash to keep hunting.

Hopes continued to be raised, only to be dashed. In 2011, the McCanns met Theresa May, then Home Secretary, and PM David Cameron to beg them to get the British police involved.

She vanished from Ocean Club in Praia da Luz

Officers flew to Portugal to look and began following the first of 560 lines of inquiry. In 2012, detectives said Madeleine could still be alive and released a computer image of how she may look aged nine.

And in 2014, searches of 60,000 square metres of scrubland were made. British police have spent almost £12million on the hunt and taken 1,338 statements, collected 1,027 exhibits and probed 60 persons of interest, plus 650 sex offenders. In March this year, the Met requested a cash boost to follow their final lines of inquiry, which the Home Office was expected to approve.

On the eve of the 10th anniversary of the disappearance, in 2017, the McCanns said they would do “whatever it takes for as long as it takes” to find her. Kate said: “My hope for Madeleine being out there is no less than it was 10 years ago.” And Gerry added: “We are still looking forward. We still hope.”

Last month, they had to mark the 13th anniversary of Madeleine’s disappearance in lockdown, while they would normally hold prayers at their local war memorial. But they urged their supporters not to forget missing Madeleine.

Interest in the new suspect was sparked by a call to Scotland Yard three years ago. Now, the family must hope that this is the key to finally solving the mystery of what happened.