‘The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann’: What to Know Before You Watch the Netflix True Crime Series

Netflix has dropped a trailer for The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann, its highly anticipated new true crime series about the three-year-old British girl who vanished in 2007. The entire eight-episode show will be available to watch March 15.

The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann explores the still unsolved mystery of what happened to Madeleine, who disappeared while on vacation with her parents in Portugal. It’s directed by Chris Smith, who also was behind the camera for the streaming service’s recent doc Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened.

Netflix calls it “the world’s most famous missing child case”

McCann’s disappearance is “the world’s most famous missing child case,” according to Netflix’s trailer for the series. Soon after McCann went missing from her room at the Praia de Luz resort in Algarve, Portugal, the media latched on to the case. The public became – and to a large degree, still is – obsessed with finding out what happened to the little girl.

The famously aggressive British tabloids were relentless in covering the story. “[T]he 3-year-old’s face was everywhere a picture could ever be replicated,” writer Sophie Gilbert recalled in a recent article for The Atlantic. But despite a lot of theories and several suspects, Madeleine was never found, and no one was ever charged in relation to her disappearance.

What we know about the case

Madeleine McCann missing poster
A missing person poster for Madeleine McCann | Steve Parsons – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images

McCann disappeared on May 3, 2007, from the apartment where she was sleeping with her two-year-old twin siblings. Her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, were having dinner with friends at a restaurant about 180 feet away from the apartment. The parents reportedly checked on the children throughout the evening until they discovered that Madeleine was missing at about 10 p.m.

Initially, Portuguese police considered Kate and Gerry McCann suspects in their daughter’s disappearance. Their theory was that Madeleine has been killed accidentally and that her parents had disposed of her body to cover up the incident. The couple was eventually eliminated as suspects.

The McCanns hired private investigators to look into the disappearance of their daughter, and eventually the British police also got involved. Among the theories about what happened to Madeleine are that she was abducted during a burglary gone wrong, taken by child sex traffickers, or wandered off on her own and was killed.

What to expect from the Netflix documentary

The eight-hour series “goes beyond the headlines and takes a unique look at the facts of the case as well as its impact on media standards around the world,” according to Netflix. Filmmakers drew on new interviews with more than 40 contributors, 120 hours of interviews, archival news footage, and reenactments to put together the series.

The goal, executive producer Emma Cooper told the Atlantic, wasn’t to solve the case or present a new theory for what happened to Madeleine. Instead, they felt “it was time to look at the case … closely and forensically, in a way that had never been laid out.”  In addition to looking in to the facts of Madeleine’s disappearance, the show also examines the way the case was treated in the media.

The Guardian reported that the documentary relies heavily on interviews from officials in Portugal who originally investigated the case. Journalists who covered the story, a man who was identified as a possible suspect, and friends and associates of the McCanns also spoke to filmmakers.

Madeleine’s parents weren’t involved with the documentary

Kate and Gerry McCann
Kate and Gerry McCann pose with an artist’s impression of how their daughter might look at the age of nine in 2012 | Leon Neal/AFP/GettyImages

Two people viewers won’t be hearing from directly in the series are central to the case: Madeleine’s parents. The McCanns declined to participate, they explained in a statement shared on the website FindMadeleine.com.

We are aware that Netflix are planning to screen a documentary in March 2019 about Madeleine’s disappearance. The production company told us that they were making the documentary and asked us to participate. We did not see and still do not see how this programme will help the search for Madeleine and, particularly given there is an active police investigation, could potentially hinder it. Consequently, our views and preferences are not reflected in the programme.

The Disappearence of Madeleine McCann is streaming on Netflix beginning March 15.

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