Everton supporters have given Madeleine McCann’s grandad new hope after the football club launched its international campaign to bolster the search for the missing girl.
Brian Healy, Kate McCann’s father and grandfather of Maddie, spoke exclusively to JMU Journalism at his Allerton home, saying that the support his beloved football team gives him and his family is "invaluable".
“We’ve received such wonderful support. It’s really important to us, and Kate and [son-in-law] Gerry. As long as people still think of Maddie we still have a chance of finding her,” said Mr. Healy.
A total of 6,000 shirts were produced and worn by travelling Blues fans at their Europa Cup match between Everton and Benfica in Lisbon last week. Each shirt had a picture of Madeleine in her Everton kit along with the words ‘We’re still looking for you’. The club printed 3,000 shirts in English, the other 3,000 in Portuguese.
Supporters collected their shirts at Goodison Park and at Liverpool John Lennon Airport by showing their match ticket or travel documentation to Portugal.
Maddie’s parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, wrote on their website: “A very big thank you to all at Everton Football Club and all of their fantastic supporters. To see so many fans wearing a Madeleine t-shirt was an incredibly uplifting (and emotional!) sight – such invaluable support and an amazing show of solidarity. On behalf of Madeleine and all of her family, thank you so much. We are very proud to be Blue!”
Mr. Healy said: “Anything that brings our search back into the news gives up hope, but you don’t get too excited, we just have to keep faith. It’s unbelievable still, sometimes you just find yourself thinking and I just shake my head and I just can’t believe it. You think: Where is she? Why did this happen? I just can’t believe it.”
Madeleine went missing in May 2007 while she was on holiday with her family in Portugal and has since then been at the heart of a worldwide campaign to help find her.
Mr. Healy spoke of his Liverpool-raised daughter has become "tougher" through this ordeal: “Amelie and Sean [Madeleine’s twin brother and sister, aged 3] have helped Kate take her mind off it all, but they’re only two – there should be three of them.
"Whenever Kate sends out a card or something she’ll still sign it from everyone, including Maddie. Nothing the media said at the time hurt her as much as Madeleine going missing. She’s become quite tough skinned because of it all.”
Mr. Healy and his wife Susan attend church services every Sunday at Our Lady of the Annunciation in Woolton Road, Childwall, where week after week Maddie is mentioned and her safe return prayed for.
The six-year-old girl has now been missing for over 900 days, but her family refuse to give up and hope of seeing her again one day.
By Sam Rogers
Maddie in her Everton Kit; A teddy bear tribute outside the Healy's home in Allerton; Brian Healy