ONCE again, nearly 15 years to the day of her disappearance, Madeleine McCann is back in the headlines with the news that the Portuguese police have declared a convicted German rapist as an “arguido” – a formal suspect in the case.

It is not yet clear whether this is because of new evidence or just a matter of procedure because in Portugal after 15 years, the status of the case will change.

Madeleine was only three when she disappeared from her parents’ holiday property in Praia da Luz. Her parents, Kate and Gerry, were initially made arguidos themselves, but this was soon lifted, and pictures of their haunted faces are now etched in all of our memories.

The disappearance of a child in such circumstances is every parent’s worst nightmare, and the McCanns have spent 15 years not knowing what happened to Madeleine. It must eat into them; their imaginations must run riot when they hear that the arguido has a conviction for raping a 72-year-old woman; and then their darkest thoughts must turn in as they torture themselves over what more they could have done to protect their daughter. The not knowing must be killing.

It is hard to know how you can cope in such a situation, how you face the world and carry on.

While Madeleine deserves justice, our thoughts are with Kate and Gerry. We really hope that this time, this is not a false dawn, that they can get answers, that they can get closure and settlement, and that they can somehow come to terms with what has happened.

The Northern Echo:

Madeleine McCann