Sun, Aug 12, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Cases of missing children back in Portuguese media

RESURFACING Portuguese media are updating stories on children who went missing a decade ago in the wake of the disappearance of four-year-old Madeleine McCann

AFP , PRAIA DA LUZ, PORTUGAL

The disappearance of a young British girl in southern Portugal 100 days ago has stirred up interest in other unsolved cases of missing children which had faded from the public's memory.

Since four-year-old Madeleine McCann vanished on May 3 from a hotel room in Praia da Luz, sparking a global search, the Portuguese press has put the cases of two boys who went missing in the late 1990s back on its front pages.

A sketch depicting what Rui Pedro Mendonca, who disappeared in March 1998 while playing in a field near his mother's office in the northern town of Lousada, would look like today has been widely distributed in recent months.

His mother Filomena Teixeira, who had struggled in recent years to get the media's attention for her search, is once again frequently sought after by newspapers and television talk shows.

Teixeira has said that when she heard the news of Madeleine's disappearance she immediately thought of her son, who would now be 20 years old. She refuses to believe Rui Pedro, who was 11 when he vanished, could be dead.

"When I stop believing he is alive, I lose all my strength. My brain doesn't allow me to think that he is dead," she said in an interview published in the newspaper 24 Horas last month.

Eight other children aside from Madeleine and Rui Pedro are listed by police as missing in Portugal, western Europe's poorest country. Most are believed to involve parental custody disputes.

But one other case -- that of Rui Pereira -- has also drawn renewed interest in the wake of Madeleine's disappearance because of suspicions that he was snatched by pedophiles.

The mother Laurinda Meira also believes her missing son is still alive. She has kept his clothes and possessions in exactly the same place as they were when he vanished in 1999 at the age of 13 from the northern town of Famalicao.

"I think it is great that they are looking for the British girl but they should remember the other children as well," she told reporters in June at an event to raise awareness about missing children.

Madeleine's parents Kate and Gerry McCann are helping to promote a new section of the video sharing website YouTube aimed at aiding the search for missing children which was launched on Friday.

Kate McCann on Wednesday called for a Europe-wide system to react to reports of child abductions and the establishment of a sex offenders register in all European nations.

"It is important that the general public are informed about the scale of the problem. I was horrified of things that I have learned about since this happened," she said during an interview with the BBC.

Three years after Rui Pedro went missing, images of him being sexually abused were reportedly uncovered during an international police operation that smashed a global pedophile network in 13 countries.

His mother is said to have identified her son in the pictures. She suspects her son may also have fallen into the hands of a pedophile ring.

"I am sure he is alive but not totally well. He could be into drugs or prostitution or being used as a slave," she told the daily Jornal de Noticias.

Madeleine vanished after her parents left her and her two-year-old twin siblings in their room while they dined at a restaurant inside their hotel complex.

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