Thursday, May 12, 2011

Nicola Naylor, of Syston,

Hundreds of Leicestershire villagers offer prayers for return of Madeleine

Hundreds of villagers showed their support for the family of missing Madeleine McCann last night at a service held three years after her disappearance.

Prayers were said at an open-air service in Cross Green, in the centre of Rothley, for her return.

Family members read out poems and messages of hope and thanks.

Parents Kate and Gerry were among the crowd of nearly 300 as the vicar of Rothley, the Rev Rob Gladstone, and then Kate's aunt, Janet Kennedy, who organised last night's service, spoke.

A poem by Simon Armitage called The Beacon, written on the 1,000th day since Madeleine went missing, was also read out.

During the poem, Kate and Gerry held one another and bowed their heads, while others in the crowd held hands.

Mrs Kennedy said it has been a comfort to reflect on how "tremendous" the support for her family had been and offered "heartfelt thanks" to everyone present.

She said: "Every day we struggle with the fact she's still not returned home. We have to believe in faith and that something will come of it – even though it gets very hard not to lose heart and stay strong.

"When I meet people they say not a day goes by when they aren't thinking about Madeleine and it's lovely to have that support.

"It's great the people were prepared to turn up in rain, hail or shine to be supportive. It's very inspirational that they were prepared to do that. Although we were praying because of the date, it was also for all missing children around the world.

"It highlights that Kate and Gerry are not the only ones."

Mr Gladstone urged well-wishers to "persevere and not lose faith" in the hope that Madeleine, who went missing from a holiday resort in Praia da Luz, in Portugal, aged three, will return safe.

Among those at the service was family friend Sharon Lawson, of East Goscote, who looked after Madeleine. She said: "We came along to support Kate and Gerry.

"We're still giving our full support and praying for her return."

Another family friend Nicola Naylor, of Syston, said: "I hope she is returned home soon and is being kept safe and well. We're not giving up hope of that."