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Donegal trip 'too painful' for McCanns

Madeleine McCann enjoys an ice cream with a couple of friends in Donegal
Madeleine McCann enjoys an ice cream with a couple of friends in Donegal

The grandmother of Madeleine McCann today said it may be too painful for the missing girl's parents to return to a Donegal village where they all spent a happy Easter holiday last year.

Eileen McCann, who owns Peoples Bar in tiny St Johnston, close to the border with Co Londonderry, said that while she may visit Ireland next month, her son Gerry and his wife Kate will not be returning for the foreseeable future.

She said it could be too painful for the couple to revisit the area, where they had a great time in 2007 just weeks before little Maddy (4) was snatched from a holiday apartment in the Algarve last May.

In exclusive pictures published by the Belfast Telegraph in the weeks following her disappearance, Madeleine was seen with her cousins happily playing on the beach and enjoying an ice cream during the Easter break in Donegal.

On their annual trip to the county last year, Kate and Gerry took Madeleine and their twins Sean and Amelie to St Johnston to see the pub where Gerry's father John was born.

Eileen McCann said today that the family would not be coming to Donegal following their ordeal.

The McCanns have been named as official suspects in their daughter's disappearance by police in Portugal and have come under fire for leaving their three children alone in the apartment while they dined nearby in the Ocean Club complex at Praia de Luz.

"This time last year, the whole family was together, all Madeleine's cousins were there in Donegal at Easter," she said.

"I don't think Kate and Gerry will be coming over this time, what with everything that has been going on. I may be over, but I think for them it will be too painful."

A spokeswoman for the Find Madeleine Campaign said that Kate and Gerry McCann will not be making any firm plans while they are still being treated as "arguidos" - or suspects - by Portuguese police.

The six-month deadline, at the end of which they could be either charged or exonerated, is to expire shortly.

"The situation has been the same for the last few weeks and Kate and Gerry still have 'arguido' status," she said.

"We are just waiting to hear what will happen next and until we do nothing can be confirmed."

Madeleine's aunt, Philomena McCann, revealed last year that 46 family and friends enjoyed the holiday in Donegal where she was also born.

The McCanns left Donegal in 1967, and Maddy's father Gerry was born later in England, but the family still have relatives and friends in the county.

People in St Johnston stood firm behind the family after Maddy's parents were named as suspects in September.

Joe Peoples runs the bar in the village and said at that stage people were stunned by developments in the case.

"I have met Kate the once and Gerry twice and they are lovely people. I just wish they would find the wee girl, hopefully alive. It must be awful for them, I can't imagine what they are going through," he said.

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