Netflix has released a long-awaited documentary series that delves into one of the most famous missing child cases in the world.
The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann, an eight-part series originally commissioned in 2017, comes nearly 12 years after the three-year-old went missing from a holiday apartment in Portugal.
Blending news footage with fresh interviews with key figures in the investigation, the streaming service says the show takes a unique look at the facts of the case as well as its impact on media standards.
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Madeleine’s parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, refused to take part in the series, saying they couldn’t see how it would help find their daughter. “Given there is an active police investigation, [the show] could potentially hinder it,” the pair said in a statement before its release.
Although millions of pounds have been spent on the investigation, Madeleine McCann’s disappearance remains a mystery. In November last year, police were granted a further £150,000 to continue their inquiries.
What does the documentary reveal?
Netflix has released few details about potential revelations, but promises never-before-heard testimonies from those at the heart of the investigation.
“It was time to look at the case closely and forensically, in a way that had never been laid out,” said the documentary’s executive producer, Emma Smith.
A rival documentary producer told The Guardian that “it looks as though it is not going to be a big ‘reveal’ kind of show that some were expecting,” but instead will be “more of a narrative piece”.
Writing for The Atlantic, Sophie Gilbert says “the eeriest thing about watching The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann now is how efficiently it replicates what it was like to experience the story of Madeleine in real time”.
“There was the visceral shock of the news when it first came, the monstrousness of a child being snatched from her bed in a Portuguese resort town while her parents had dinner nearby,” she says. “The ferocity and hunger with which the media clamped down on the story and did not let go.”
The documentary forensically examines various theories surrounding Madeleine’s disappearance, including that she’s still alive after having been kidnapped by child traffickers.
Senior child protection officer Jim Camble says he believes she could still one day be found. “There’s huge hope to be had with the advances in technology,” he says in the series. “Year on year DNA is getting better. Year on year other techniques, including facial recognition, are getting better.”
But ultimately, the series raises as many questions as it answers, says Gilbert.
“How did one missing child become the most enduring news story of the 21st century in Britain?” she asks. “What was it about Madeleine, exactly, that consumed everyone so?”
The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann is available to stream on Netflix from 15 March
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