Steve Bird and David Brown in Praia da Luz and Adam Fresco
It is an ordinary picture of a family enjoying a holiday abroad together. A father sits next to his two daughters on the edge of a swimming pool, the children wearing hats to protect them from the sun.
But for Kate and Gerry McCann it is the last picture they have of their daughter Madeleine, who was snatched from her bed less than eight hours later.
The picture was taken by Madeleine’s mother Kate, 38, on her own camera in the holiday resort of Praia da Luz, Portugal, where they were staying.
It shows Madeleine’s father smiling, wearing sunglasses and looking straight at the camera proudly sitting with his two young daughters by his side.
Next to him in an orange top is his two-year-old daughter Amelie who is a twin with brother Sean.
Beside her is her big sister Madeleine, who was then three but looking forward to her fourth birthday at the end of the family holiday.
Madeleine is shown smiling, wearing a pink smock top, white shorts and a sun hat.
The picture was taken at 2.29pm on May 3 - Mrs McCann’s camera clock is one hour out so the display reads 1.29pm.
Later that evening, before 10pm, Madeleine disappeared. She had been sleeping in the family’s holiday apartment next to the twins, when she was snatched.
Mr and Mrs McCann were just yards away at the time having dinner and her disappearance has been publicised around the world, but despite an extraordinary campaign to make her image known across Europe there has been no news of her whereabouts for three weeks.
Mr and Mrs McCann, backed by an army of friends and family, remain convinced that Madeleine is alive, 22 days after she disappeared, but they have revealed that they are growing increasingly frustrated with the failure of Portuguese police to find their daughter.
It is the first time that the parents have expressed concerns about the way detectives in the Algarve are handling the case.
A source close to the couple, both 38 and from Rothley in Leicestershire, said: “They are getting concerned and frustrated at the apparent slowness of the Portuguese investigation.”
It is understood their main concern is that Portuguese police have to conduct their inquiries in secret, have abandoned the search and that detectives have not issued a high-profile appeal for help in tracing the girl.
Instead Mr and Mrs McCann have had to spearhead their own campaign to ensure the public is aware of the hunt for Madeleine, a campaign they plan to promote by visiting various European countries.
“Kate and Gerry are increasingly frustrated and they are considering how they can move things forward themselves,” the source continued. “It’s fair to say that they are frustrated with the Portuguese system and the many delays it causes. They want to do positive things in their search for Madeleine.
“They feel that some processes are taking a very long time and they are not being informed fully by the police of any developments.” It is thought that the couple have been irritated by discovering more about the investigation from newspapers and television rather than from senior detectives in the case.
“The British police have been great, but even they are not in the loop,” he continued. “At every stage throughout this the couple have been putting their own questions and concerns to British police and in turn to Portuguese authorities.
“While they remain content with the overall thrust of the investigation they do at times hope that their questions and concerns are addressed more quickly.
“They fully comprehend the restrictions that the Portuguese legal system places on everyone involved in this but naturally as parents who want their little girl back some of the delays that are occurring are frustrating.
John McCann, Madeleine’s uncle, said: “Obviously if Madeleine is still not back we are very disappointed. I will not go as far as to say frustrated, but disappointed.
“It is important that the authorities are going to explore more avenues and focus resources very much on sightings and other information that is reported.
“Our attitude remains exactly the same. We remain absolutely determined to explore all ways to get Madeleine back. That will focus on the criminal investigation but we have to, as a family, be open to other ways. We have to take advice from the professionals.”
Meanwhile Manuel Neto Quintas, the Catholic bishop of the Algarve, had offered to become a go-between with any kidnapper. He offered to make himself available if Madeleine’s abductor chose to contact him.
The parents also held an informal discussion today with John Buck, the British Ambassador to Portugal, consular officials and British police. Madeleine’s disappearance is expected to form the centrepiece of events to mark International Missing Children’s Day tomorrow.