The parents of missing Madeleine McCann are “distressed” after learning that tourists are being offered morbid sightseeing tours of the town she was kidnapped from.
Participants are taken to the apartment where the three-year-old was last seen and the restaurant where Kate and Gerry McCann dined with friends on the night their daughter disappeared.
Several other Praia da Luz landmarks featured in the subsequent search for the little girl are highlighted in the ‘Luz Challenge’ tour, which The Mirror writes is the macabre brainchild of a British ex-pat grandfather who became obsessed with the case after moving to Portugal.
Madeleine vanished while on holiday with her parents in Portugal in 2007 and, despite a high-profile international hunt, no trace of her has ever been found.
The McCanns have strongly denied any involvement with their daughter’s disappearance, and attempted to sue a police officer who claimed the couple lied.
Writing on his blog, the anonymous guide states: “I think of this as the ‘Luz Challenge’. Our version of Mission Impossible. Your task is simple. You have to come up with a way in which the McCanns, for whatever reason, disposed of Madeleine’s body, and the body was not found in the subsequent searches.”
News of the Luz Challenge has not gone down well with other expats in the area.
One told the newspaper: “This is in appalling taste. I couldn’t believe it when I saw it. This is totally uncalled for. A little girl going missing should not be made into a game or a challenge.”
A source added: “The guide is obsessed with Maddie. He’s written thousands of words about the case and pored over maps, photographs and police transcripts.
“We don’t know why he’s so hung up on it.”
Explaining why he wants to remain anonymous, the guide blogged: “So why do I use usernames on forums and on my blog? I see a lot of people for whom the Madeleine McCann case is about them, as if they want major roles in a stage drama.
“I want the exact opposite. I prefer to remain anonymous, in the background, a non-character in the case. That means my musings are more likely to be judged on merit alone.
“And hopefully, that in turn maximises the chance of what happened to Madeleine McCann.”
Hopes were high when the UK investigation into the little girl’s disappearance was launched in 2011, with Scotland Yard detectives later highlighting a sex offender who had targeted British families with young children staying in villas in the same area where Madeleine was last seen.
Despite no obvious progress since then, earlier this year the head of Scotland Yard’s murder squad, Detective Chief Superintendent Mick Duthie, remained optimistic.
He said: “There is ongoing work. There is always a possibility that we will find Madeleine and we hope that we will find her alive.”
In April, then-home secretary Theresa May granted the team £95,000 to keep the investigation going, with the cash expected to last until October.
The British investigation, Operation Grange, was expected to be wound up after Scotland Yard boss Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said in May that British investigators had one remaining line of inquiry to follow and unless any new evidence came to light the probe would finish.
This came seven months after the investigation team was scaled back drastically to just four officers.