By Laura Barcella
March 19, 2019 02:55 PM

At 10:14 pm on May 3, 2007, 3-year-old Madeleine McCann was reported missing — and her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, were thrust into an extended nightmare.

Madeleine vanished from her British parents’ Portugal beach villa on a family vacation. Since then, countless theories have been tossed around regarding what might have become of the little girl, who vanished while she and her twin siblings slept and her parents ate dinner at a nearby restaurant.


An 8-part Netflix docuseries titledThe Disappearance of Madeleine McCann gives the years-old missing-person case a fresh look with extensive archival footage, reenactments and interviews. Though Madeleine’s case remains unsolved, the series posits that she may have been abducted and sold into a sex-trafficking ring.

But what, if any, are the reasons to believe this? And if that’s what happened, where could Madeleine be today?

An age-progressed photo of Madeleine McCann
| Credit: Photo Illustration by Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre via Getty

A Body Has Never Been Found

Madeleine’s parents have remained hopeful that McCann is still alive, telling the BBC, “There is still hope that we can find Madeleine.” They see light at the end of the tunnel for one powerful reason: Madeleine’s dead body has not been found.

Plus, there have been thousands of global reported sightings of Madeleine, who would be a teenager today. According to the theory, if she had been killed at any point in the last 12 years, someone surely would have uncovered her by now, or come forward with details.

Various experts close to the case also believe that Madeleine is alive — or might be. According to the BBC, the UK’s Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley has said there is no “definitive evidence” that Madeleine is dead.

In the Netflix series, Jim Gamble, a British child protection officer who served as the lead detective in the preliminary search for Madeleine, believes answers about her abduction will one day be known. “I absolutely believe that in my lifetime we will find out what has happened to Madeleine McCann,” he says in the film. “There’s huge hope to be had with the advances in technology. Year on year, DNA is getting better. Year on year, other techniques including facial recognition are getting better. As we use that technology … there’s every likelihood that something we already know will slip into position.”

Madeleine McCann

Madeleine Had ‘High Value’ for Traffickers: Investigator

In the series, private investigator Julian Peribanez, hired by Madeleine’s parents to work on their daughter’s disappearance, says that he believes the girl was sold into sex trafficking. Why? Because, as a white child from a wealthy country, she would have been seen as “high value” for both traffickers and pedophiles.

Trafficking in Portugal is, sadly, not rare — and the Portugal News reports it’s on the rise. Portugal offers relatively easy access to Brazil, Eastern Europe, and North Africa — the latter of which, The Telegraph reports, has had various alleged sightings of Madeleine.

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Madeleine — or someone who looks like her — has allegedly been spotted near Mauritania, a west African country the US Department of State described as a “source and destination for women, men and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking.”

Scotland Yard’s investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann continues — along with the hope that Netflix’s docuseries could bring about fresh leads in the case.