By ELOISE WALTON [email protected]
I can now say that I could find my way to and around Praia da Luz with my eyes closed.
Despite it being more than two years since a British child disappeared from the quiet seaside village of Praia da Luz, the search for her continues very much alive and well.
Under the noses of the locals, who have tried to return to normality after the police and media invasion, people still venture to the village from abroad to try and solve the mystery – what happened to Madeleine McCann?
Having started my journalism apprenticeship at the Algarve Resident on the eve of Madeleine’s disappearance in May 2007, I have seen many people from all walks of life, professionals and amateurs, psychic, clairvoyants and many weirdoes, trying to find one small child who disappeared without a trace.
One such attempt was again made this week by a British man called Derek Spring, who made contact with the Algarve Resident saying that he had visions of Madeleine alive and had come to the region to try and find her.
Normally, these sorts of claims are dismissed or the details are passed onto the relevant authorities for investigation.
That’s as far as this newspaper will take it, but this case just caught our attention at the office.
RESEARCH IN RUCKSACK
Derek Spring certainly did not come across as a weirdo or someone who was looking for self-promotion, or any other form of personal gain, which would usually put the press on the back foot.
He seemed a genuine man, so after an exchange of emails and telephone calls, I made plans to meet him, with our Operations Director Mark Rawcliffe, at the church in Praia da Luz.
He was not what I expected for someone who says he has seen visions of future events and missing children for the past 29 years.
Derek Spring is a softly spoken retired engineer and he met us armed with a rucksack filled with all his research on the case.
After a long conversation outside the church about Derek’s history of seeing visions of things before they come to pass, including the 9/11 and the start of the war in Georgia last year, we decide to accompany him to a field just outside of the village, where he believes there could be some clues to Madeleine’s whereabouts or indeed where she could be held or buried.
As I was walking along, I couldn’t help but replay his words in my mind of how he didn’t know why he started to get these visions and he just wanted to have peace of mind, which is why he tries to work out their meaning and funded his trip to the Algarve to see if he can solve the mystery.
His intentions were honourable, and the sceptic inside couldn’t help feeling sad for him and knowing that we weren’t going to find anything, while another tiny part was wondering…what if? What if we found her?
After spending the morning in Derek’s company, traipsing around field, with a scabby horse and wandering into ruined houses that are clearly used by squatters throughout the year, it was time to admit defeat, yet again, and return to the office none the wiser.
NEXT WEEK: Eloise reports on her experiences following her first encounter with a British press pack – in Praia da Luz because Gerry and Kate McCann were in town.