MADELEINE McCann’s parents are being urged to have new age progression pictures created of their missing daughter to show the world how she would look today.
Kate and Gerry cling onto a glimmer of hope Madeleine could still be alive and are even appealing to Brit tourists to take posters of her on their holidays in a desperate bid to help trace her after more than 12 years.
As well as fresh images based on Kate and Gerry’s appearances in their mid teens, a new FaceApp-style ageing technology – which helped locate a kidnapped boy in China – could be used by Scotland Yard detectives with a recent £300,000 funding boost for their search.
Yu Weifing was the same age as Maddie when he vanished as a three-year-old.
He has been reunited this week with his overjoyed family after 18 years.
A close pal of the McCann’s said: “This incredible news of a child being found after such a long time and with new photo technology will give Kate and Gerry fresh hope.”
Maddie was snatched from a holiday apartment in Portugal’s Praia da Luz on May 3 2007. She would now be aged 16.
FACE-APP COULD CRACK CASE
Yu, who disappeared from Futian, Shenzhen, on May 6 2001 was rescued from his abductors after Chinese cops used technology to predict what he may look like now.
They then used facial recognition software over two months to identify a “candidate” considered the highest match.
Student Yu, now 21, had no idea he was a kidnap victim – which could be the case with Maddie because of the young age she was taken – until forensic tests matched his DNA to his biological parents.
The McCann source said: “There appears to be new age-progression technology out there of an accuracy that has never been seen before which produced incredible results. It’s an exciting prospect.”
FaceApp has been taking social media by storm with many people, including stars, sharing images of themselves as they may look in decades.
After Yu, whose surname was changed to Li, was found investigator Zheng Zhenhai said: “We opened the case the day after the incident and we never gave up. Technology was limited at the time. We checked surveillance footage but there were simply too many people coming in and out of the area.”
Forensic scientists in America have warned that Madeleine could now be “unrecognisable” from the last computer-generated image released of her as a girl of nine in May 2012.
They suggest that pictures of missing kids should be produced every two years as their appearance can change drastically particularly through adolescence.
The McCann pal said: “If and when the Metropolitan Police advise Kate and Gerry that new images of Madeleine as a mid teenager could aid their investigation they will strongly consider going through the process again. But they have been hesitant because the procedure is lengthy, costly and emotionally draining.
“They’ve been reminded by experts in the US that new pictures really should be drawn up. If she’s out there, and her family hope and pray she is, there’s a chance she could have changed so much from the last image put out seven years ago.
“Maybe the type of technology used to find the Chinese boy could be used in her case.”
CHINESE BOY FOUND
State-of-the-art "age advancement" digital techniques, used by the FBI, mimic features of child and teen photos of a missing youngster’s parents to establish how they may now look in computer generated images.
Maddie is remembered around the globe as an angel-faced fair-haired toddler wearing a scarlet dress in an iconic snap of her.
It was a favourite image first released to the media by her frantic parents when she vanished from the family’s Algarve apartment while they were dining nearby with friends.
They also shared the last ever known photo of their daughter – who was days away form her fourth birthday – clutching tennis balls during a lesson on court on her doomed holiday and grinning beneath the brim of her favourite coloured bright pink sunhat.
Family spokesperson Clarence Mitchell said: “Those two picture of Madeleine are etched on everyone’s minds. Some people are still searching for that cute little girl dressed in red or with her arms wrapped around tennis balls. At times whenever there are potential sightings they are conjured up of a young Madeleine. It’s as if time’s stood still.”
He added: “Twelve years is a long time when a child goes from being a toddler to a mid teenager and her features could have changed.The only real tell tale sign is the distinctive blemish in her right eye. Kate and Gerry will heed the advise of the police, who they remain extremely grateful to, and will consider new images if needed.
“No one ever thought she would be missing for so long."
Heart doctor Gerry and GP turned medical worker Kate, both 51, of Rothley, Leics, said four years ago: “We will consider updating pictures of Madeleine in another year or two, if she is still missing.”
Two years after Maddie vanished US TV show queen Oprah Winfrey produced an artist's impression of how the missing girl may look in then and now digitally enhanced images.
Shocked mum Kate sobbed as saw first-hand the haunting image of her daughter, created by the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children in Virginia, saying: “I don’t know who that little girl is.
Forensic artist Teri Blythe drew up the last and most recent image of Maddie which was unveiled by Scotland Yard.
The Sun Online revealed this week that Maddie’s parents are asking holidaymakers in the UK to take posters and luggage tags of their daughter abroad to put up in public.
To try and keep Madeleine's disappearance in the global spotlight during the summer holidays there are printed pictures to choose from in 17 different languages.
Last month the Home Office agreed to grant Scotland Yard another £300,000 to keep their investigation into Madeleine's disappearance going until next March.
The eight-year investigation, codenamed Operation Grange, has so far cost £11.75million. But cops have yet to unearth any significant clues. Not one piece of forensic evidence linked to the youngster has been found.
A Scotland Yard spokesperson declined to discuss the possibility of new age progression images, saying: “We cannot give a running commentary on this active investigation."
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