The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann: Netflix release date, key interviews and controversy

Netflix’s true-crime documentary series has gone ahead despite criticisms from parents Kate and Gerry McCann

Kate and Gerry McCann (Getty)

Netflix claims that new documentary series The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann will provide a detailed look at events leading up to Madeleine’s disappearance in 2007.


Promising to “delve into the truth” and “explore every theory”, the eight-part series will examine what happened in the hours after Madeleine McCann went missing, and feature never-before-heard testimonies from detectives and key players in the investigation.

The documentary is directed by Chris Smith (the man behind the documentary Fyre: The Greatest Party that Never Happened) and produced by Emma Cooper.

Here’s everything you need to know about the series…

The Crown - Matt Smith, Peter Morgan, Claire Foy - Writer/Creator Peter Morgan with Matt Smith (Prince Philip) and Claire Foy (Queen Elizabeth II) (Netflix, TL)

When is The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann released on Netflix?

All eight parts were released on Netflix on Friday 15th March, and are available to watch now. The streaming service only confirmed the release date the day before on Thursday 14th March.

News that the series had been commissioned was first reported back in 2017, but the documentary is only now coming to screens.

The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann – watch the trailer

Who has been interviewed in the Netflix Madeleine McCann documentary?

As well as using archive news footage and reenactments of key events, Netflix has stated that the documentary is comprised of 120 hours’ worth of interviews from 40 different contributors, including journalists, detectives and associates of the McCanns.

Among those who feature in the documentary include Robert Murat, the first formal suspect in the case.

A scene featuring Murat is included in the trailer. The British ex-pat is seen saying, “They wanted me to confess. I actually felt I was being set up.”

Robert Murat, Madeleine McCann suspect (Getty)

Julian Peribanez, a private investigator hired by the McCanns, is also set to feature in the series, claiming that Madeleine was abducted by child traffickers and could still be alive.

British Child Protection officer Jim Gamble meanwhile states that he believes that investigators will find out what happened to Madeleine thanks to the development of new technology including DNA and facial recognition software.

The role of the media is also explored, with reporters and former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie recalling why the case came to be so intensely scrutinised.

Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan, co-authors of the book Looking for Madeleine, explain their knowledge of the case on camera.

Gonçalo Amaral, the Portuguese detective initially involved in the case, has also given an interview to the documentary makers.

Gonzalo Amaral former Portuguese detective, Madeleine McCann case (Getty)

“I was at the peak of my career,” he says in the first episode, “after 30 years in the Judicial Police.”

However, his role in the investigation proved to be particularly controversial; he was removed from the case in October 2008.

Amaral faced legal action from Madeleine’s parents Kate and Gerry McCann following the publication of his book about the case, in which he alleged that the parents were involved in the child’s disappearance. The McCanns strenuously denied the allegations and initially won their libel action, before an appeals court in Portugal overturned the decision in 2016. The McCanns remain in a legal battle with the former detective.

Other tourists who were in the area at the time talk the producers through the background to the holiday resort.

The filmmakers have said that they never had an any intention to “solve” the long-running case, instead choosing to methodically lay out and review all the evidence away from the press hysteria that dominated the investigation during the late 2000s.

Speaking to The Atlantic, Cooper explained, “It was time to look at the case … closely and forensically, in a way that had never been laid out.”

The series opens with a screen detailing the investigation contact details for the Madeleine McCann case, asking viewers to contact the Metropolitan Police or authorities in Portugal if they have “any information on Madeleine McCann”.

Netflix's Madeleine McCann documentary opens with a request to contact police if viewers have any information relating to the case (Netflix)
Netflix’s Madeleine McCann documentary opens with a request to contact police if viewers have any information relating to the case (Netflix)

Did Kate and Gerry McCann take part in the Netflix documentary?

Kate and Gerry McCann (Getty)

The parents of Madeleine McCann do not feature in the series, although archive footage and interviews with the couple are included.

The pair were initially approached to take part, with the family’s former spokesperson Clarence Mitchell telling the Guardian, “Kate and Gerry and their wider family and friends were approached some months ago to participate in the documentary. Kate and Gerry didn’t ask for it and don’t see how it will help the search for Maddie on a practical level, so they chose not to engage.”

The pair have since criticised the documentary for airing while Operation Grange, the Scotland Yard investigation looking for Madeleine, is still ongoing.

A statement released by the pair read, “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, it could potentially hinder it.

“Consequently, our views and preferences are not reflected in the programme. We will not be making any further statements or giving interviews regarding this programme.”

What’s the latest in the search for Madeleine McCann?

The initial investigation in Portugal was halted in 2008 after it was announced that there was no evidence to link the suspects (which at this time, included Kate and Gerry McCann along with Murat) to Madeleine’s disappearance.

In 2011, then-Home Secretary Theresa May launched Operation Grange, opening a British review into the disappearance – which turned into an official investigation in 2013.

Police open new investigation for Madeleine McCann (Getty)

The McCanns have vowed to “never give up” searching for their daughter, who would now be 15 years old.

Speaking at a carol service in London in honour of missing people last year, Kate McCann said, “Just maybe tomorrow will be the day we find something to lead us back to Madeleine and to know what happened.

“It gives us hope. Never give up hope.”


The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann is released on Netflix from 15th March 2019

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